Archive | Flowers and Plants

Annual, perennial and interesting flowers with advice on culture, information, tips and recommended varieties

My Spring Actions

2019 was off to a great start in Yorkshire; weather-wise at least.

Never knowing how many more springs I will be gardening I resolved to try the new and not to repeat the same mistakes as previous years. Surprisingly this philosophy has delivered several new tips that may be worth sharing.

New Spring Tips

  • Why have I never watered my dry compost before seed sowing. I use commercial compost for starting dahlias and summer bulbs into growth in frost free conditions. This year they have gone into predampened compost and the results are encouraging.
  • The daffodils have been great and I am photographing the garden in sections to see where they excel and where I can add new bulbs for next year.
  • Members of the primula family are also benefiting from the good damp ground that has followed a virtually snow free winter.
  • I can’t compete with the price of a bunch of daffodils from the supermarket so I am not trying. The space is too precious. However gardeners can compete on variety and specials and I have them in a dozen deep plant pots .
  • On miniature varieties of daffodils gardeners can compete handsomely as prolific results and good naturalisation seem to be easy. That is where I am setting my stall out.

Trying the New

  • I chop and change my selection of plants to grow each year. It means I get to select and buy new items that take my fancy. I do try to be loyal to a species for a couple of seasons but I think my auricula love affair is waning.
  • I have already dropped my membership of the Cactus Society and just composted the last specimens.
  • This year I am majoring on cyclamen which may take some years to reach excellence level. So to compliment that I have opted to try some indoor and outdoor Gloxinia.
  • I have returned to seaweed extract and just tried to perk up the lawn with a special watering. I will see how that goes.
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Getting Good Results from Japanese Maples

Japanese maple or Acer palmatum are popular trees and small shrubs. They are grown for an attractive habit and dramatic foliage. The purple, crimson or creamy green leaves change to russet or scarlet in autumn. These leaves can scorch and dry and turn brittle when water is lost from the leaves by frost, wind, hot sun or salty air but they are worth the effort of giving them ideal conditions.

Ideal Growing Conditions

  1. Cool dappled shade is preferable to open, windy locations.
  2. Red leaved varieties need some sun to intensify their colour
  3. Plant Japanese maples in slightly acidic well drained soil that doesn’t dry out in summer nor become water logged in winter.
  4. The shallow roots benefit from an organic mulch.

Growing In a Pot

  1. Some smaller varieties adapt well to growing in a pot that has good drainage and aeration.
  2. Crock the pot and fill with loam based compost and mulch the top to avoid water loss.
  3. Water every day especially during hot weather.
  4. Repot in spring every 3 or 4 years before they restart in growth.
  5. Protect roots in the pot from very cold, wet weather.
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Orchid Shows

 

Winter and early spring is often a good time for Orchid shows in the UK. We have already missed half a dozen shows in January.

 Feb  6     Hinckley & District Orchid Society A.G.M and Quiz
Barwell Constitutional club
7-300pm – 10-00     Contact: keith bates 01455444177 keithbates185@hotmail.com
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  9     The North of England Orchid Society Monthly Show and AGM
Barton Village Hall, the A6 north of Preston
10.30am – 3.30pm     Contact: George Barnes 01942 810958 or via website form http://orchid.org.uk/email.htm
Trade Attending :- Phoenix Orchids, John Keeling
     Feb  20     Royal Horticultural Society RHS Orchid Committee
Council Room, Vincent Square
1130 –      Contact: Jill Otway jillotway@rhs.org.uk
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  23     The South West Orchid Society  Annual Orchid Show
West Monkton Village Hall, nr Taunton TA2 8NE
10.30am – 4pm     Contact: Marian Saunders 01278455170 msaunders1@mail105.co.uk
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  24     East Midlands Orchid Society displaying at the Harrogate OS Annual Show
Pavilions of Harrogate, Great Yorkshire Showground, HG2 8NZ
10:00 – 16:00     Contact: Melv. Stephen 01159 198124 melv_and_hil@hotmail.com
Trade Attending :-
     Feb  24     Harrogate Orchid Society Annual Show
The Pavilions Harrogate Showground Wetherby Road Harrogate HG2 8NZ
10.30am – 4.00pm     Contact: Ivor Pawson 01909 477832 ivor.pawson@sky.com
Trade Attending :-

However here are some as listed by the British Orchid Council to tempt you in February. I will be going as a spectator to the Harrogate show and potential some others. The trade usually attend to show their products and will offer advice to the novice. For other pending shows see orchid.org

 

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Chill Out Music in Your Garden

You may want a tranquil peaceful garden but sometimes you need some supplementary relaxation. After your toils to achieve a neat restful space you can reward yourself with some gentle music. The National Trust recognise this and have launched a CD collection of ‘Music for Tired Gardeners’.

Relax after a hard days gardening to the music of Vaughn Williams’ Greensleeves, or if the weather in inclement Chopin’s Raindrop prelude may refresh you. Other composers on the CD include Tchaikovsky, Delius, Debussy, Schumann and Eric Coates etc. You may not be  ‘In a Monastery Garden’ but the Delius operatic composition ‘The Walk to the Paradise Garden’ will be some compensation.

Walking around your garden you can sign the old traditional song ‘How many kinds of sweet flowers grow In an English country garden?
How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
We’ll tell you now of some that we know
Those we miss you’ll surely pardon
Daffodils, heart’s ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian, lupine and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, blue forget-me-nots
In an English country garden

Like me you may not remember the next two verses about ‘How many insects come here and go In an English country garden?’ and ‘How many songbirds fly to and fro In an English country garden?’

Happy listening and Happier gardening

 

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New Gardeners Do Not Need A Garden

It is possible to enjoy gardening without having a traditional garden. Budding new gardeners can get a lot of pleasure and experience from a simple approach to plants and growing.

  1. Children can learn from growing mustard and cress from a packet of seeds in the kitchen. Put some cotton wool in half a clean eggshell dampen and sow some seeds. Better still may be a saucer with a damp face cloth.  A bean or pea seed in a jam jar wedged against the glass with some blotting paper will grow a root and a shoot to demonstrate the wonders of nature.
  2. Pot plants are often an introduction to gardening. Indoor they need light and water but most can survive at least 6 months without feeding. Green leaved plants may be easier to keep alive than flowering plants which in my experience need more care and attention.
  3. Without a traditional garden you can use grow bags on a balcony or path. I fill some bags and containers with bulbs or young, ready grown plants.
  4. Windowsill in my house are chock-a-block with plants from herbs and salad to exotic orchids. Even new gardeners can give some of these a go.
  5. If all else fails new gardeners can visit parks & gardens, garden centers and even look around the hedgerows and neighborhoods to get gardening knowledge and experience.


Cyclamen in a Pot on the Drive

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Tree Books – More than Three Books

2018 has been a remarkable year for tree books and the publishing trade has done a good job listing new and older titles. There is now a forest of books to acquire and collect and I hope they have been printed on paper from sustainable sources.

Book Cover

A ubiquitous book that has been a star seller on the shelves this year. The bright cover and eclectic mix of poems has hopefully started many saplings on a journey with trees.
Book CoverA compendium of National Trust History & Heritage. We can take pride in our tree history.

Book CoverFascinating facts that are hard to comprehend until you study what is going on with trees in groups. A clever update of another edition, a sort of sucker from the parent tree.

Book CoverWe are not alone in venerating trees and if you want an excuse to travel the world then this book will provide some inspiration. Continue Reading →

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Where to See Trees

Trees can be individually inspiring but when trees are gathered or clumped together they can range from the majestic to the commercially relevant.  Over centuries trees have provided the largest social impacts from shelter, sustenance and products from timber.  Through changing seasons the aesthetic benefits of the wide variety of trees also give a significant amount of personal pleasure.

Despite problems of disease in some species and Sheffield council contracting to chop down trees close to highways, trees are  ubiquitously visible throughout the UK.

 Tree Zones and Areas Where You See Trees

  1. Woods in all shapes and sizes
  2. Forest – now applied to conifers but historically area where forest laws applied
  3. Copse – broad leaved woodland
  4. Spinney
  5. Stand
  6. Park  – traditionally containing more widely spread trees
  7. Arboretum
  8. Clough or Ghyll
  9. Gill or Dingle – wooded valley
  10. Ancient Woodland
  11. Carr – usually alder & willow on wetland
  12. Chase or firth – a hunting area
  13. Enclosure – once land held in common
  14. Glade
  15. Plantation
  16. Hanger   -wood on a  steep slope or bank
  17. Ride
  18. Shaw-  small wood
  19. Spring  – coppiced woodland
  20. Wildwood- original forest from the last ice age
  21. Landscapes
  22. Orchard
  23. Woodlot
  24. Jungle
  25. Thicket
  26. Memorials –  graveyards crematoria  and special areas
  27. Swamp
  28. Grove
  29. Nurseries and specialist tree vendors
  30. Woodland Trust
  31. National Trust Properties
  32. Botanic gardens
  33. Wild in nature

If you wish to take issue with my selection or know where I have ignored a favourite ‘tree zone’ then send us a comment.

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Kelp Forest and Seaweed Growing

It may seem unusual to feature a subsea area in a  series about gardens but this post may provide some food for thought. The oceans and seas are still capable of surprising us with a bountiful harvest including new and exotic eating experiences.

A Kelp Forest

Kelp Facts

  • Kelp is part of the brown seaweed family phaeophyceae or laminariales. There are many different genera and species that grow in shallow, temperate saline water.
  • All Kelps are seaweeds but not all seaweeds are Kelp
  • Kelp captures and stores carbon
  • Kelp provides shelter for numerous fish species. It is also a breeding ground for juvenile sea creatures and a key part of the ecostem. The fronds or leaves sway in the temperate waters across the globe including thearound the UK.
  • The stipe or stalk stretches down to root in the seafloor anchoring the plant around rocks and boulders.
  • Iodine is present in Kelp along with many other important minerals. There is dramatically more calcium in Kelp than a similar volume of milk.

Is Kelp Good For You?

  • Kelp, produces a thickening agent used in ice cream, toothpaste and other products.
  • Some kelp species are eaten in salads and as edible decorative wrapping for sushi rice.
  • Kelp is used to produced Soda ash by burning.
  • These uses makes it a progressively more valuable commodity. Harvesting these sea-vegetables by hand sustains several coastal communities. Mechanical kelp harvesting is too intrusive, damaging of future crops and the ecosystem but it is on the increase.

Seaweeds are primitive sea plants

  •  There are at least 10,000 different species of seaweed
  • Salads can be made with Sea Lettuce or Purple Laver.
  • Laver bread is made from seaweed.
  • Agar and Carrageenan can be extracted from seaweed for use is used in the production of  paper and toothpaste.

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Mythical Gardens and Antiquity

Shangri-las

I will use Shangri-la as an all encompassing name for spiritually based gardens and areas of harmonious natural beauty stealing a name from James Hilton in his novel Lost Horizon.

To many Shangri-la conjures up a ‘place regarded as an earthly paradise, especially when involving a retreat from the pressures of modern civilization.oed’  a remote or an imaginary, beautiful place,  where everything is pleasant and life approaches perfection

The essence of a spiritual, peaceful gardens is represented in different ways across the world by Buddhists from Tibet, Daoists from China or in Zen gardens from Japan. Some of these forms of a Shangri-la are known to feature in ancient literature from 200 BC.

Book Cover

Gardens with Spiritual or Religious Background

Persian Gardens over the last 5 millennia have soothed and calmed societies with the use of water representing the great rivers of the Tigris and the Euphrates. Building on this spiritual tradition Islamic Mogul gardens stretch across Asia. There have been examples of Hindu influences in India and other developments in Kashmir, Pakistan and Bangladesh together with gardens in other parts of the Mogul empire. Islamic Charbagh gardens are based on the four gardens of Paradise mentioned in the Quran.

Monastic gardens in the UK and Europe are now renown for medicinal  herb and vegetable growing. In the middle ages these gardens also acted as pleasure gardens, orchards and even cemeteries, in fact most of the aspects required to enjoy a healthy and spiritual  life .

Other Mythical Gardens

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were reputed to have been built alongside a grand palace known as The Marvel of Mankind, by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II around 605 BC). This was  a gesture for his Median wife Queen Amytis, because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland.

 In the Oldest Gardens in the World CWS records claim that ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh, thought to have been written as early as 2100 BC contains the oldest mentions of gardens in surviving literature. Gilgamesh states that his city Uruk was ‘one third gardens’, and in the story visits the ‘Garden of the gods’, a garden with precious stones, pearls and jewel-laden trees.’

In the knights of the round table Avalon was  where King Arthur was nourished back to health after his battle with Mordred. Unlike Camelot Avalon was ‘a land of plenty, where wild apple trees and vineyards grow of their own accord no matter what the season.’

Tír na nÓg in Celtic mythology is the supernatural land only ever seen by a lucky few. Al0ong side the ‘Little Folk’ the slow pace of life has lush dwelling’s in peaceful trees with sumptuous flowers and landscapes that remain green all year round.

 

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Best British Trees Reviewed


Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Beech
From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Hawthorn
Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Hornbeam
Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Sycamore
Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

Larch
A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Yew
Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Ash
Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.

Notes

  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
Woodland Trust

The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

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